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Rediff.com  » Sports » PIX: Indy 500 champion Wheldon dies in crash

PIX: Indy 500 champion Wheldon dies in crash

Last updated on: October 17, 2011 09:50 IST

Indy 500 champion Wheldon dies in crash

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Briton Dan Wheldon, who won the Indianapolis 500 on its 100th anniversary in May, has died after a horrific 15-car crash at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday which left the motor sports world in shock.

The 33-year-old IndyCar driver was involved in a multi-car accident 13 laps into the Las Vegas Indy 300 which sent his vehicle flying and left wreckage and debris across the track.

Wheldon's car flew over another and caught part of the catch fence just past the apex of turn two.

The incident left Townsend Bell's car upside down and smouldering cars strewn along the track.


Image: Dan Wheldon
Photographs: Getty Images
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Wheldon's death announced two hours later

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Wheldon, who lived in St Petersburg, Florida, was flown by helicopter to University Medical Center in Las Vegas for treatment before his death was announced two hours later.

"IndyCar is very sad to announce that Dan Wheldon has passed away from unsurvivable injuries," IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard said in a statement.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family today," Bernard added.

The race was cancelled and drivers returned later for a moving and tearful five-lap tribute.


Image: The car of Dan Wheldon (top left) bursts into flames during the Las Vegas Indy 300 part of the IZOD IndyCar World Championships
Photographs: Getty Images
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'One minute you're joking around in driver intros and the next he's gone'

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A popular figure, Wheldon was the 2005 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series champion and he won the Indy500 race that year and also in 2011.

When the drivers returned to the track, Wheldon's fellow British driver, Scotsman Dario Franchitti, was sobbing uncontrollably as he was strapped back into his car.

"I could see within five laps people were starting to do crazy stuff," said Franchitti, who avoided the incident and with the cancellation of the race won his third straight series title.

"I love hard racing but that to me is not really what it's about. One small mistake from somebody ..."

"Right now I'm numb and speechless," he said. "One minute you're joking around in driver intros and the next he's gone".


Image: Dario Franchitti, driver of the 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara Honda hugs a crew member after the death of Dan Wheldon
Photographs: Getty Images
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'We put so much pressure on ourselves to win races and today it doesn't matter'

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"He was six years old when I first met him. He was this little kid and the next thing you know he was my teammate," said Franchitti, who raced together with Wheldon at Andretti Green Racing.

"We put so much pressure on ourselves to win races and championships and today it doesn't matter."

Crews lined up along the pit lane and fans in the stands stood silently as the drivers paid tribute to the popular Wheldon.

The cancelling of the race meant that Franchitti won his third straight series title.


Image: A fan waves a sign after Dan Wheldon died of injuries after a fifteen car crash during the Las Vegas Indy 300 part of the IZOD IndyCar World Championships
Photographs: Getty Images
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Wheldon won rookie of the year at IndyCar in 2003

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After winning eight British national titles in karting and then finishing third in the 1998 Formula Ford championship in Britain, Wheldon moved to the US in pursuit of better opportunities.

He clinched the F2000 Championship Series in 1999 with six victories and then moved into IndyCar where he won rookie of the year honours in 2003.

Wheldon claimed the 2005 series thanks to six wins for Andretti Green Racing.

The Englishman later raced for Panther Racing and his final team Bryan Herta Autosport.

Wheldon leaves his wife Susie and their two young sons.

Image: Dan Wheldon
Photographs: Getty Images
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